I just adore this quote by Iris Murdoch: "People from a planet without flowers would think we must be mad with joy the whole time to have such things about us."
That's how I've felt every morning this week, walking through this sweet hilly neighborhood above White Plains, New York. There are iris everywhere, and I stop and smell, admire, and photograph them all. I cannot help myself. Especially after a rain night, like last night. I now have my favorites which I visit each morning, and these sweet purple and white iris along a white picket fence are definitely on my favorite list. I now have hundreds of photos of these iris, and I still can't stop taking pictures. I am literally mad with joy.
Irises always make me think of my mother. She adored them, and found a wonderful grower of speciality iris right next door to our church. She planted this horticulturalist's bulbs, and soon had a beautiful bumper crop.
We entered one of her iris in my high school flower show. Of course, in a gorgeous art deco vase. Needless to say, we won. My mother was the daughter of a landscape architect, and she had an infallible eye. It was stunning. But when I see iris, what I remember is how overjoyed I was for her. I always felt that way about my mom -- that sometimes she was overshadowed by my dad or even by having a rambunctious teenage daughter. It always made me so happy to have people see how incredible she was. So, it's my mother I think of when I see these iris. We chat about them in meta-virtual reality, as I walk down the street, picking our favorites.
That's the beauty of a joy practice of beauty. It connects you -- not just to the beauty of what's around you, but to the beauty of the sweet memories of beauty inside you.
What memories of beauty still move you? What flowers make you mad with joy?
I would have to say that my favorite Daily Practice of Joy is taking photographs and then creating my own "gallery" on Instagram. I love looking back and seeing how I am learning to see. I also love using my photos as a gratitude list -- a reminder of everything for which I have to be so grateful.
I firmly believe that the way we see the world is the way we experience the world. If we see the world through a lens of joy and hope and connection, the world mirrors that back to us. If, on the other hand, we are mired in fear and worry and resistance, we tend to get that back instead.
I love Instagram, because it is all about pictures -- and seeing other people's pictures always brings me joy. It's like being invited over to someone's house for dinner and getting to see all their photos on the wall or enjoying their photo album of a recent family reunion or trip to Spain. I have always loved that. And now I get to enjoy it virtually and tell them I like what I am seeing.
Someone once shared a wonderful idea with me. They said: Social Media is a Culture of Generosity. We put Likes and Hearts next to posts that bring us joy and connection. We share them with others.
So, I thought I would try a little JOY experiment.
Would you consider liking my Instagram page? You can find it by clicking here: INSTAGRAM
And would you consider sharing it with one other person and asking them to like it?
I will do the same for each new follower. Because generosity begets more generosity -- and we all need all the generosity we can give!
Let's see if we can spread the joy around and be more generous and therefore more grateful! A daisy chain of joy in photographs. In JOY!
One of the things I love most about visiting museums is being exposed to many different manifestations of beauty. When I saw this beautiful Thai statue, its grace and elegance took my breath away. It felt like a winged messenger of joy that sang straight to my heart.
The best part was that I didn't have to know anything about it to feel that way. I just acknowledged in my mind what my heart was already expressing.
Visiting museums or learning about other cultures when we travel helps us recognize just how "trained' we are to see beauty. Often what we believe to be beautiful is, in fact, far more learned than innate. Different cultures deem different things beautiful, and if we have not been exposed to those things ourselves, when we see them for the first time, we might have a hard time understanding what others see. In fact, we might find something that one culture deems the epitome of beauty downright ugly. But that's only if we look with limited eyes. When we are willing to open our hearts and minds and see through fresh lenses, the boundaries of the beautiful explode -- and our lives are all the richer for it.
Have you had the experience of changing how you see by opening your mind and your heart?
This was my inaugural post about beauty: A photo I took during lilac season in Santa Fe 2017. Somehow, however, I pressed a button a month later, and it disappeared. But I can't begin my page about my daily practice of joy as it pertains to the appreciation of beauty, without including lilacs. So I'm reposting.
Whenever I pass a lilac bush, I do a face plant. Oh goodness! That smell. And it is a smell that is impossible to capture in essential oils, which always just seem overwrought and cloying in lilac. But in real life, there is just nothing as sweet as the smell of a lilac.
I still remember the first time I -- a California girl -- encountered lilacs. It was the spring of my freshman year of college in Massachusetts, and there was a hedgerow of lilac bushes -- all purple and while and glorious -- and I could smell them from a distance. I fell in love. And I have never fallen out of love.
I think one of the sweetest things about lilac season is that it is both so early in spring -- one of its first gifts -- and that it is so short. So you have to appreciate lilacs when you can.
Appreciating and being grateful for beauty is one of my most essential joy practices. And smelling, seeing, loving flowers is one of the daily gifts of my life!
What flowers bring you the most joy>
When I knew that I was going to become intentionally homeless, I thought to myself: I can live without a home. I can live without all the stuff I have accumulated over a lifetime. I can live without a partner. I can live without most things that most people feel they need. But I can't live without a dog.
So, along came Allie. I had NO idea just how much I would fall in love with her. But I have, and I am. Deeply and sincerely smitten and over the moon with My Sweet Al.
She is a poodle mix -- I call her a Puddle. A muddled poodle puddle of Pure Love. She travels with me everywhere. She has been to 36 states so far, and she is not even one and a half years old. But yesterday, I had to leave her to be taken care of while I go overseas. I was a blubbering mess.
She is mischievous -- she eats Kleenex, steals socks, jumps like a pogo stick going through cross walks, talks back to me, loves to play ball incessantly, and more or less runs the show. She is also patient, kind, sweet, loving, and the best company you can imagine. She cuddles with me at night, puts her head on my arm or leg, looks up at me with her beautiful brown eyes and bats her movie star eyelashes -- and I am just gone!
Since I miss her so much today, I just had to write about her. . .and about how much joy she brings to my life. She is teaching me so much about LOVE and JOY and LIFE and FUN. I could not be more grateful to be sharing my life with this beautiful beautiful four-legged being. She truly is my unruly beautiful bundle of joy.
To follow Allie's exploits, please check out her awesome Instagram page, by clicking here: TRAVELS WITH ALLIE I hope her adventures and her sweet face on Insta will bring you as much daily joy as she brings me.
Here's to our four-legged teachers of joy. May we be as kind and loving to them as they always are to us.
Who are your four-legged joy teachers?
Greetings from Asbury Park!
When I drove in last night, I was literally greeted by a wonderful neon sign saying that -- and making me think, very happily, of Bruce!
I'm here to officiate a wedding. I am so grateful to be sharing this day with a wonderful bride and groom -- Samantha and Addison -- as well as their family and loved ones.
We're all staying at a wonderful huge old brick hotel on the boardwalk. Not that I've seen the boardwalk, because it's pouring rain in gale force winds. This morning, however, I did take a slightly more sheltered walk through the wonderful tree-lined streets filled with colorful Victorian homes. It was beautiful. I'm glad I did -- because now it's really raining. Which means, I am having to learn to be still, once again.
That is one of the hardest things for me. To just be. To be here now. I have a glorious corner room on a high floor, overlooking everything -- with the pounding surf of the ocean in the distance. But all too often, I realize, that's how I feel inside -- like that pounding surf.
When I see photos of people lying on a sofa reading, I have an almost romantic response. Aaaaaah! I think. I would love to just lie around and read. So, last week, I read a whole memoir in two sittings. Trying to be one of "those" people. Maybe I looked like that relaxed person on the outside, but inside, I felt like the Kentucky Derby -- racing toward the finish.
The finish of what? That's the question.
I created this Practice section to remind myself every day to practice just Being. I think it really means learning to be still, be present, be here, be grateful.
So today, enjoying the view from my beautiful room before the ceremony this evening, I am grateful to be right here, right now, present to what is. Grateful, too, to know that all of you are out there to -- practice your own joy. And learning what you are here to learn. And loving that we are sharing through the Joy Connections Forum.
If you have any practices that help you be still, be present, be here now, please share them there. I would love to learn from you! I truly believe that, the more present we can all learn to be in our lives, the more lovingkindness with which we can walk through the world. A world that needs all the lovingkindness we can bring to it right now!
Last week, I changed a few of my "practice categories" on this site -- and this was one of them. I decided that I needed to practice more being and less doing. I have always loved that clever reminder that we are meant to be human beings not human doings. Nonetheless, it is difficult for most of us to just be, and let it be, as opposed to do, do, do.
I found this came up for me big time this past week. I was at the ocean. Now I grew up on the beach, and I have always loved the ocean. But since moving to the mountains, I have found myself increasingly drawn to the mountains more than the sea. This week, I found out why. The mountains allow me the sweet solace of communing with nature with enough variety of things to "do", In the mountains, I bird, I hike, I find new paths, new streams, new lakes, new birds. Whereas the ocean calls me to learn how to just be more like it. There. Just there every day. The ocean reminds me to be.
Sure there are high and low tides, seashells to gather, my dog to walk, and splashing or swimming or playing in the water. There are sunsets and sunrises and all the different kinds of light. There are windy days and calm days, days when the ocean becomes a modern art canvas, and days when it shimmers like a disco ball. But none of that changes its essential message to us all: I am here. Join me.
This week I received an unexpected writing deadline from my publisher, and as I slogged away at it at first, I found myself willing myself to write something "good". Then I would go out and look at or walk alongside the sea -- and remember all I need is to be.
In the mornings, I would shoot out of bed before the sunrise and pound for miles up the beach with my dog, gathering shells and alternately listening to audiobooks or just the sound of the surf, trying to calm my anxiety enough to get to that place: Just Be.
It wasn't until the very last morning, the sun coming up a huge orange flaming ball illuminating the whole ocean grey then orange until it finally became blue, that I heard her -- the Ocean, saying to me: I am infinite and unlimited power. And so are you. This morning my tide is out, but later it will be in. Right now the sand is covered in shells, but later the water will cover those shells. You cannot count the drops of water that make me this ocean. You cannot count the grains of sand that form this beach that tapers out into infinity. There is nothing I have to do today to be the ocean -- and there is nothing you have to do to be you. Let's both just be the infinite beings we are.
As I head back to my landlocked life this weekend, I am going to carry that sweet message from the sea with me: Just be. Be like the sea. The tides will come. The tides will go. Life will be blue or bright or cloudy or clear, windy or still -- and yet, it will always be.
This is "my" Buddha -- created on an old piece of scrap metal by the artist David DeVary. But now it lives in the beautiful garden oasis of my dear dear friends Pamela & Todd.
I took this photo of it last August, and was so grateful to see this piece I have loved enshrined among so much floral beauty in a place of pure love.
The Buddha said, "The heart is like a garden. It can grow compassion or fear, resentment or love. What seeds will you plant there?"
It a question we all need to remind ourselves to answer many many times a day -- as we practice joy, and choose compassion and love.
This past week, I had hoped to visit a place that has been legendary to me since childhood. But the weather did not cooperate. (Fortunately, I have been there once before.) It is a place I fell in love with in childhood, when I read this book.
As a lifelong horse lover, this book -- and many of Marguerite Henry's other books -- always captivated me. The idea of an island filled with wild horses who swam was simply magical!
This past week, just driving past highway signs pointing me to Chincoteague made my heart leap in joy. Although the torrential sheets of rain made it impossible to hike the dunes, as I had hoped, I nonetheless had the joy of remembering what reading felt like to me as a child. It felt like a window onto the magical world out there that I might one day discover.
Although I'm not sure that reading will ever feel quite as magical to me as an adult as it did in childhood, I am so grateful that I was able to fall in love with books -- and so with the world -- in the way that I did. And because of that, reading will always be one of the fundamental sources of joy for me, still opening up magical, misty worlds of possibility!
What childhood books brought you the most joy? Please share on our new Joy Connections page HERE
It's hard for me to pick just one John O'Donohue book to share, if you haven't read him or heard him speak. What a gift!
If you click the book link, it will take you to his website. There you can find all of his books, as well as a link to a wonderful interview with him about Beauty.
And here is one of his most beautiful prayers. Words for us all to live by and come to know:
May I have the courage today to live the life I would love ...to postpone my dream no longer. But do at last what I came here for and waste my heart on fear no more.
Well, I couldn't possibly begin sharing my book practice without Mary Oliver. When I was a kid, my dad taught me to love poetry by paying me a buck for every poem or Shakespeare soliloquy I memorized. I was a mercenary child. Since I only got a quarter a week for my allowance, I memorized with abandon. In the process, I fell in love with poetry. (Which was his devious plan, of course!)
Mary Oliver was not the first poet with whom I fell in love. That honor goes to Shakespeare, followed closely by Rainer Maria Rilke. But her poems have been the leitmotif of my life. As someone who tries to spend part of every day in nature, her evocation of the natural world as a kind of spiritual communion resonates for me in ways that nothing else has.
As a fellow peony lover, to find these words in her poem to my favorite flower stopped me in my tracks: Do you cherish your humble and silky life?
I try to -- every day.
Do you? Do you cherish your humble and silky life?
One of the things I love most about photographing birds is that I never really know what I'm going to see until later.
I love hummingbirds. To imagine the sheer mileage these tiny birds cover in their lifetimes always amazes me. They make my travel life seem mundane. To see one in January is always wonderful, which is what happens in California (unlike other parts of the US).
I saw this one on a morning hike near my hotel in Novato, California, and began taking photos. It wasn't until I downloaded them that I saw the little surprise. . . .
I have always thought of myself as a Great Blue Heron. Tall, gangly, all angles, prone to stare ceaselessly at something or someone that fascinates me, a water lover, mostly solitary, a flier of long distances, yet also a creature of habit.
I saw this Great Blue Heron at the Sea Ranch in Northern California in January 2017 during a break in a series of powerful storms that lashed the coast. As s/he stared at a prospective morsel in the marsh, I stared at him/her. We were aware of one another's presence, but respectfully and sweetly. We saw one another almost every day for two weeks. I certainly came to think of him/her as my friend. I hope s/he felt the same.
I love this photo. The powerful surf behind this beautiful bird that I have long considered my daemon or totem animal seems to capture the freedom and joy I always feel when in the presence of our winged friends.
Do you have a totem animal?
Difference between fun food and mindful eating. Switch to joyfoods you will feel joy and happiness while eating them and it will make you healthy.
What is it about certain foods that look so, well, FUN that they just make you want to eat them?
I don't eat white sugar. I haven't eaten it in over 30 years. But EVERY SINGLE TIME I see Macarons, I want not just one, but one of every color. The same is true of M & Ms. It's all the colors. They make you feel like a kid -- a kid who could eat anything.
A few years ago, a friend whom I know to be both a foodie and a wordsmith wrote about Macarons. I was perplexed, because I thought she meant MacarOOns. I messaged her and, as a result, got to learn all about the resurgence of Macarons.
For those of you who don't know, a Macaron is a sweet meringue-based confection made with egg white, icing sugar, granulated sugar, almond powder or ground almond, and food coloring -- invented by the Italian chef of Catherine de Medici.
I saw this window full of Macarons in Luxembourg last fall, and it was all I could to not to buy one of every color. I didn't, of course. My I Don't Eat White Sugar ethos has been in place for so long now, that I'm barely tempted. But the thing is, now I wish I had.
So, within the next few weeks, I plan to rectify that.
You see, I am really trying to shift my joy practice around food. I grew up with a mother who felt that if you looked at a potato, let alone ate one, you would gain 500 pounds. I was allowed ONE HARD CANDY a week and the occasional ice cream, and my sandwiches were made on bread so thin that whatever she put inside had already seeped through and overcome the bread by lunchtime. It was disgusting. As a result, I have always snuck my sweets and treats -- even as an adult. I am a closet eater. The fact that I eat very healthy foods does not mean I am a healthy eater. I am forever either rewarding or depriving myself.
But this year, I have been trying something different. An experiment of eating from the inside out -- not the other way around. From a place of gratitude, mindfulness, and, yes, joy. Choosing what and how to eat from my heart and from a place of kindness toward myself, not self-loathing about everything I eat. I have gained a few pounds, but I feel so much more centered and balanced. Every so often I find the old self-loathing around food surfacing. But practicing joy around eating is really helping. That's why I included this practice. It is truly a practice I hope will change my life around food into a more holistic one.
So, next week, as I head to England and France, should I pass a window of Macarons that are beckoning me, I have promised myself to go in and have a few. A blue one, for sure! I mean who doesn't love the idea of a blue cookie!! I'm sure it will taste ridiculously sweet to someone who hasn't had sugar like this in decades, but sweeter still will be the fact that I am choosing joy and trusting that!
So, stay tuned for the update. . .and if you have any suggestions for the best place in London or Paris to get Macarons, or what colors to get, please share! But more importantly, if you have any holistic eating practices or joy practices that have helped you around any food issues you may have, I would be so grateful if you shared them.
And, as my dad always said, Bon Appetit!
Since I'm in Savannah, Georgia, this morning, I thought I would write about one of the most memorable dishes of my adult life.
Growing up as I did, with two foodies parents who enjoyed eating incredible meals all over the world, I have had the good fortune of trying almost anything and everything I have every wanted to eat. Being a finicky eater, however, the places we ate were often more memorable than the food itself.
Although I love enjoying a good meal as much as the next person, but frankly it's rare for one dish to knock my socks off -- as this dish did the first time I had it on my first trip to Savannah almost a decade ago. First of all, it's a fish dish -- and with the exception of Wolfgang Puck's Whole Sizzling Catfish with Ginger and Ponzu sauce at Chinois on Main in the 1980s, I would be hard pressed to name one other singularly memorable fish dish in my entire life.
Until this Crispy Scored Flounder with Apricot Shallot Sauce at Garibaldi's and The Olde Pink House here in Savannah. Our host recommended that I order it, so, basically because I believe in When in Rome, I did. I was blown away. So much so that I have tried to have it every time I have come to Savannah -- and recommended that countless people have it when they come.
I could rave about the texture -- crispy on the outside, melt in your mouth tender on the inside -- or the glorious layered tastebud revelations of the sauce. But that wouldn't begin to do it justice. Since I think what I loved most was the joy-filled surprise of it all.
If joy is the pure and simple delight in being alive, then eating this dish reminded me of the pure and simple delight in discovering and sharing a glorious food experience. I have never forgotten that evening. I felt so purely and gratefully happy to be exactly where I was -- the company, the place, my first visit to SCAD (the incredible Savannah College of Art and Design) -- and the unexpected WOW! of this dish seemed to mirror that experience in a way that meals rarely do for me.
For me, at least, Joy when it comes to food is all about the experience of shared gratitude -- and I will forever be grateful for that evening and the manner in which this fish dish "mirrored" the joy of a wonderful experience.
OK. Let's be honest. Part of me just wants to write this post because I love the alliteration. Another part of me figures how often do you get to use the words fiddlehead fern in a sentence! But the fact of the matter is that fiddlehead ferns are delicious.
I discovered them last spring in Bar Harbor, Maine, at their local food coop. They were so cool looking, so I just had to try them. I asked someone who worked there how to cook them, and she suggested I saute them with a little garlic, olive oil and sea salt. So I did. OMG! They were fantastic! Crunchy with a slightly bitter (think asparagus or arugula -- which happen to be my two favorite vegetables) taste.
I am not sure that you can find them everywhere, but my guess is that anyone in the Northeast or Northwest can probably get them. If you can, do! And saute them up like the coop lady taught me, and prepare to be amazed.
Apparently their season is quite short. Once they turn into fronds, you can't eat them. But while you can get them, they are fantastic. And, of course, like anything this marvelous, they also happen to be incredibly good for you, as I discovered in this recent article.
So move over kale and broccoli -- two foods whose appeal I'm sorry to say is utterly lost on me -- and welcome fiddlehead ferns! I promise you that you will feel only joy eating them. Not only are they ridiculously cute, but they are absolutely delicious.
In fact, I think that we should create a new superfood group: Joyfoods. So stay tuned for my next joyfood post. And, in the meantime, please share your joyfoods with all of us! What foods bring you joy (without all that ridiculous guilt we are taught to have when we really enjoy something)? Because joy -- and so joyfoods, too -- is meant to be shared!!!
So, here's the back story. For the past 25 years, I have not been a birthday celebrator. But when pushed about what I want to do on my birthday, I say the same thing over and over again: I wish someone would create a scavenger hunt or road rally that I could do with my friends. That sounds like so much fun!
Well, 25 years have passed. People keep asking me what I want to do for my birthday. I give the same answer. Nothing. When pushed I tell the scavenger hunt story. It's come to be a godsend. Because it usually shuts them right up about celebrations.
So last month (my birthday's in April), my dear dear Karen here in New York asked me what I wanted to do for my birthday when I came in May. I gave my same old answer. Nothing. But she pushed me. Surely there's something you want to do. So I told her that, if I had to choose something, I would like to go to The Cloisters in May. I'd been there once in the spring and never forgotten it.
That's it? she said. No dinner out? No Broadway show? Time to shut her up, I figured. So I told her about the scavenger hunt. Huh. She said. I figured my silencing technique had worked, and thought no more about it.
Two days later she called me: Are you free on May 21?
Why? I asked warily.
Well. . .she began.
If it's something for my birthday, I replied, I'm not interested. Just the Cloisters.
Well, she said.
Oh God, I thought.
How about a Scavenger Hunt at the Cloisters? she asked.
You're kidding!!!!!! I exclaimed.
She wasn't. She had found a company (the awesome Watson Adventures) that did scavenger hunts at The Cloisters, and she got us tickets.
Yesterday we went. It was a perfect spring day. All the gardens were in glorious bloom. We joined 25 other people, most of whom were in teams of 4 - 6 people. We were the only team of two. The rules were explained -- a series of clues which required solving by traipsing all over The Cloisters. We had two hours. It was timed. No points for being early, but points detracted for being late and not working as a team. You had to stay together.
So off we went. I had a grin the size of the Pacific! It was SO MUCH FUN. We solved away, working as a team, having a blast exploring and searching. We felt really great about our answers. We looked for clues in corbels and sculptures, stained glass and herb gardens, triptychs and altarpieces, silver vessels, and, of course, the marvelous Unicorn Tapestries. A true medieval scavenger hunt in a beautiful sacred place.
There was only one problem. I had to pee really badly, but there was no time. We BARELY got our answers in under the wire. In fact, points were given for the best team name, and we wrote ours in -- we were The Felonious Monks -- right as we handed the paper over.
Our leader handed Karen a paper with all the right answers and I rushed back inside to wait in a very long line for the loo. When I got back, I saw Karen standing with six other people and the leader. She waved me over urgently: Hurry up! We're tied for first.
We, the only team of two, had tied for first against all the other larger teams!
So, of course, there was a tiebreaker. The question was: When was The Cloisters opened to the public? No cheating. No Googling. And 20 seconds to come up with an answer.
I could have kicked myself. Why hadn't I read up on The Cloisters before coming?! But an answer came to me: 1932. I looked at Karen. She said she had no clue.
So, I always use this example when I talk to people or clients about trusting their guts. I call it My War of 1812 Theory.
If you're watching Jeopardy and the answer that comes to you is "What is the War of 1812?" and then you think -- but it can't be the War of 1812. I don't even know what the War of 1812 is. Who even fought in the War of 1812? Surely it's the Civil War or the Revolutionary War or some war I actually know. NOPE! The answer is ALWAYS your first instinct. It's always the War of 1812.
So even as my head was saying it's probably sometime in the 1970s, I thought -- Follow your own damn advice.
So he asked the other team first. They whispered their answer. Then he asked us, and I said 1932.
Our leader paused for the great reveal: The team of six said 1966.
Oh no, I thought. It's going to be the Seventies -- and they'll win because they're closer.
Our team of two says, our leader paused for dramatic effect: 1932.
And the answer is. . .1938.
OMG! We won. I had waited all these for a Birthday Scavenger Hunt, and not only was it at The Cloisters on a perfect spring day, but WE WON!! Oh What Fun!
This is Karen and me wearing our winning gold medals in front of The Cloisters on one of the single most fun afternoons of my adult life. Some things are more than worth waiting for. . .
If you want to do one, too, check out @WatsonAdventures in your hometown. You will have a blast!!
When I was a kid, they used to be called Ferris Wheels. But now they have more lofty titles -- Sky Wheel or The Eye. You can find them in most major cities -- a brightly colored twirling orb on a skyline lit up in changing colors. They are fascinating, transfixing, beautiful. At least to me -- a lifelong lover of amusement parks. But it's been a long time since I rode one.
Last night, I finally did. And I felt just like a kid -- awed, joyful, a little bit fearful, and altogether wonderful.
In an age of technological inventions almost unimaginable 125 years ago, when the first Ferris Wheel fascinated everyone at the Chicago Worlds Fair, it is almost inexplicable that these gentle giants could still bring us so much simple joy. But they do. For which I am grateful. They are a sweet reminder that the simple things in life may still be what bring us the most sweetness -- and that joy does not require bigger, better, faster -- but rather serves as a reminder to share and cherish the purest emotions of our hearts.
To see the pretty spinning colors, please click HERE
My dad introduced me to rollie coasters and amusement parks when I was a little girl. It was one of our great shared joys. My dad was 67 years old when he made this documentary. He agreed to do it for one reason: Because it would allow him to ride all the best rollie coaster in America. How many 67-year-olds would do that? Let alone do it with GLEE?
My dad was one of the hardest workers I have ever known. But he never approached work with anything other than joy -- and he never approached life with anything less than a great sense of FUN!
Almost every spiritual teaching encourages us to approach life as a child with beginner's mind. What child does not know how to have FUN!
I still love riding rollie coasters, and I hope to keep riding them for as long as my dad did.
Do you love rollie coasters, too? Which are your favorites and why?
This is an image from my upcoming art show next month.
Yesterday, I was going through each image with my friend Kim -- who is helping me grow the confidence to believe in my vision as an artist. We were trying to take out some of the weaker ones.
Kim was SO supportive and loving. She was everything I would have loved to have heard when I was younger. She made me feel so good and so excited about the show. And I trust her because she was an art major, is a designer, and is a wonderful artist herself -- not to mention the fact that she is SUPER visually picky . . . in the best way.
So, when I suggested that we cut this one, I was surprised when she adamantly said no.
She said that the reason likes this image is because of how I manipulated the color to make it pop! I did that on purpose, of course, but I wasn't sure if it was too much. But the reason I did it is because I think that certain paths just call to us. They say Come This Way! Walk With Me! And those are usually the paths we need to take. But it's a funny thing -- because even though our guts know the way, inevitably the voices in our heads kick in and start telling us all the reasons we shouldn't go that way: What if it's not safe? What if there's a better way? What if you get lost? What if? What if? What if? Until you eventually turn around and go back the way you came.
So, I made the color pop because it seems to me that we reallyl do see the paths we are supposed to take with this kind of neon clarity -- and STILL those voices try to call us off. I put the words Find Your Own Path on the wood slats thinking about the runway lights that tell pilots where to land. For those of us who aren't pilots, however, we wouldn't necessarily know if we're supposed to follow the blue lights or some other color. But pilots do. And it's the same with us -- ONCE WE LEARN TO TRUST OUR INNER VOICES.
So, next time a path calls you, really listen to it! Can you trust it? I bet you can. . .Is it calling you in bright colors and clear voice to Walk This Way? Then it is very likely the path you were meant to find. So walk a ways and see what you discover!
I spent all of last spring and summer on the East Coast, where I tried to hike as often as possible with my dog, Allie. I noticed that, more often than not, I ended up on rocky paths where the trails could only be marked in paint on trees or rocks. I also found that, more often than not, I ended up on the Blue Path. And finally, I realized that the Blue Path, the Rocky Path, was usually the most difficult path. Yet it was always the one to which I was drawn. In absolute joy!
Why is it that, in our joy pursuits, we take on difficulty as a welcome challenge, whereas in other areas of life, we feel burdened, put upon, perhaps even accursed, by difficulty? Instead, I have decided to treat every obstacle as an opportunity for growth and awakening.
I am seeing that it is not so much that I am choosing the Rocky Blue Path, but rather that the Rocky Blue Path is being chosen for me, because I am ready to face each obstacle and greet the opportunity for growth in grace and understanding and connection. That this, too -- or perhaps this, especially -- is one of the most essential of any Daily Practice of Joy!
I found this path in a nature preserve in Pittsburgh when I drove cross country for five weeks in the fall of 2014.
I have been there numerous times now -- in fall and summer. It is a magical place. But that first day was the most special. . .wide green swathes of dewy grass, deer peeking out from deep in the woods, the first touch of autumn on the hills, apples ripening on heavy-laden boughs, a cozy fog swaddling the hills, and chirruping birds everywhere. With not one other person there but me!!!!
I have taken so many beautiful pictures there. . .but this one was taken about fifteen minutes into my first visit -- at a moment of utter GLEE! I felt like a little girl who had discovered a secret garden full of magical animals, that I had entered the world I had been dreaming of finding my whole life. . .
What paths have opened up magical worlds for you?
This weekend I had the honor of officiating the wedding of Samantha Peersen and Addison Bjork. Talk about Pure Joy!
I first met the future Mr and Mrs Bjork about four or five years ago, at Chiller Theatre in New Jersey. We chatted after they attended one of my talks. I really loved their energy and attitude and joy.
A couple of years later, I gave another talk -- and they were in the audience once again. That afternoon, October 25, happened to be the anniversary of my dad's passing, so I decided that I wanted to create a ritual by which we could all remember him in the week before Halloween. To give a little context, I explained that I had been studying rituals in my last year of seminary -- and was really beginning to click to all the ways that our family shared joy rituals. I don't think I'd ever mentioned that I was studying to be ordained as an interfaith/interspiritual minister at a talk before.
As it all turned out, right before I began, Addison turned to Sam and said, "Wouldn't it be great if Victoria could officiate at our wedding?" Five minutes later, I talked about becoming a minister.
I guess some things are meant to be. After the talk, Sam and Addison came down and asked me if, as a minister, I could do weddings. Since the ritual I had suggested to remember my dad was all about Saying Yes, there really was only one answer to that question. . .A HUGE YES! And that's why I spent this past weekend in oh-so-cool Asbury Park, basking in Love and Joy at one of the most wonderful weddings I've been to in ages.
As I said during the ceremony, So often in weddings, the minister feels like he or she needs to share their wisdom about love and remind the couple about the serious and sacred task not just of loving one another, but of caring for and supporting the well being of one another. But to be honest, I already feel like I’ve learned more from Addison and Samantha about love than I could possibly convey to them.
So instead, I shared a few lines from one of my father’s favorite poets.e.e. cummings, who wrote “Love is the voice under all silences, the hope which has no opposite in fear; the strength so strong mere force is feebleness: the truth more first than sun, more last than star.”
I have come to understand these words even more deeply knowing Samantha & Addison. And I will be forever grateful to have been part of such an important day in their lives.
(For those of you who would like to know more about what an interfaith/inspiritual does in general -- and what I do in specific -- please check out my website: www.redshoesministry.com)
One of the biggest misconceptions I initially had about horror fans and horror conventions was my idea of the kinds of people who attend them. I thought they would all be, well, scary people. Not only are they not scary -- they are kind, generous, funny, sweet, interesting, loving, and polite -- but often horror fans come from (and so come to horror conventions with) horror families. Whole generations of horror fans show up together -- grandparents, parents, and kids. Even little tiny kids come. A couple of weeks ago at Spooky Empire in Orlando, I met three children under the age of two named after my dad. One named Vincent, and two named Price.
Kids love costumes. Kids love play. Kids love sharing play with their parents and siblings. It's not scary. It's just fun. To me, that is a wonderful reminder that often the things we adults persuade ourselves are scary can be transformed when seen through the childlike eyes of joy and love.
Look at this little girl. I took her picture a few years ago in Atlanta. There she is in her darling green costume (if I were a horror fan, I would be able to tell you who she is), surrounded by fellow green icons -- tiki monsters and the creature from the black lagoon. And she is just happy as a clam!
Whenever her photo pops up on my feed, I smile. She reminds me that fear can only talk us into believing it when we buy its PR. I'd far rather have this little girl's attitude -- that these supposedly scary things are really just playthings and props to support her lifelong adventure in joy and love!
If you would care to share some ways in which joy and love have transformed your own fears, please share them by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to chat about them in an upcoming blog post!
My friend Alison and I were walking along New York City's Highline one late October morning when we saw a photographer taking a picture of these two men. We both had the same sweet thought. I'm wondering if you are, too, as you're reading this.
As I often do, I stopped and engaged them in conversation, and found out that, contrary to what Alison and I had imagined, they were having a photograph taken for their business: The two men are longtime business partners. I asked them if I could also take their photo, and they agreed.
I love this picture, because it reminds me of many joy-filled things. First of all, it is reminder that we all love to tell ourselves stories. That's not a bad thing -- but often the real story is far better than the one we make up in our minds. Because what I am reminded of when I look at this photo is that love comes in so many forms. We are a society that overvalues romantic love. And that makes us forget how vital it is to cultivate and cherish all kinds of love.
The Greeks had four distinct words for love: Agape. Eros. Philia. Storge. We focus so much on Eros (sexual, romantic love) that we forget that love takes many forms -- compassion, lovingkindness, affection, empathy, the unconditional love of a parent (or a Divine Parent) for their children, friendship, loyalty, community, charity, goodwill, partnership, collaboration.
It is only by nurturing and expressing all of these kinds of love -- and more -- that we show up to our own lives and those of others, and so to that of the Universe. To find love in every nook and cranny of our lives is the essence of any Daily Practice of Joy -- in work, in play, in our animals, in nature, in our business partnerships, and our family life, and in our beloveds. I am so grateful for this sweet exchange of love that I got to witness and now carry with me in my own heart.
As a lifelong Bruce Springsteen fan, OF COURSE I was excited to be invited to officiate a wedding in Asbury Park!
I drove in late Friday night and was promptly welcomed by bright white lights proclaiming, GREETINGS FROM ASBURY PARK!
We were off to a great start. And then a Nor'Easter blew in, so I didn't see too much of the town for the next 36 hours. A quick rainy walk revealed tree-lined streets with iris and azaleas soaking up the welcome moisture in gardens of beautifully-restored Victorian mansions. While I soaked in the gorgeous Berkeley Oceanfront Hotel where we were staying.
But then Sunday morning dawned. Breezy, sunny, cool -- and out I went to explore everything. What a wonderful town! The famous boardwalk, cute boutiques, seafood restaurants, and lots of music joints. Including the famous Stone Pony.
I had paleo pancakes with real maple syrup for breakfast, and chatted with everyone who walked by and greeted my dog, Allie. Then I made the rounds of a fabulous Farmers Market, where I found some awesome jewelry by a local artist. More Victorian homes and boutique hotels, and of course a souvenir tshirt rounded out my visit. I wish I could have stayed longer.
I had heard that Asbury Park was undergoing a wonderful renaissance. There are signs of it everywhere. It is an absolutely beautiful seaside town. I could have photographed there all day -- so many sights to see.
But frankly, with as much as I travel, I have come to gauge a place more by its people and its energy more than its beauty. Asbury Park has wonderful people and a great energy.
Sometimes touristy places overwhelm me -- and I'm sure Asbury Park on, say, Fourth of July weekend might do just that. But on a beautiful spring Sunday morning, watching the waves and the birds and the people and the dogs -- taking in all the joy everyone seemed to be exuding -- I am putting Asbury Park on my must visit for longer list.
One of the real perks of a nomadic life is getting to see places I have heard about my whole life -- and finding out what they are all about. Meeting real people in real places and finding sweet connections -- like a shared hug with a new friend in the Farmer's Market -- that's what it's all about. Or to quote the Boss, in a lyric never more apt in these days of disheartening headlines: "Man, the dope's that there's still hope."
This is one of my new favorite places. I was driving through the village of Sleepy Hollow looking for a place to walk my dog Allie, when I saw Headless Horseman Bridge. Well, you gotta love that. Just on the other side I saw the gates of a large cemetery, and a sign with an arrow reading Irving.
That's how I found my way into the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, and discovered an incredible walk into history. Beginning with the early Dutch settlers of the Hudson valley up to the present day -- and meandering through most of the great names of American industry and commerce -- Rockefeller, Chrysler, Carnegie, and even Helmsley -- I viewed an unusual glimpse at our nation's history. Through their memorials meant to encapsulate a lifetime in a moment of marble.
Of course, the cemetery is also home to Washington Irving's family plot, as well as tributes to countless veterans of countless wars. A beautiful stream meanders through the acres of rolling hills, covered with spring flowering trees and fragrant lilac bushes, and glimpses of the Hudson river in the distance. It is one of the most beautiful places I have walked in a long time -- a place to think about history, humanity, beauty, nature, and the meaning of life.
I found myself thinking about the great joy each of these individuals must have experienced in their lifetimes, and chose to hold that joy for them in my heart -- instead of the sorrow their passing brought to their loved ones or their admirers. I could not help but think how they would love all the beauty surrounding them this spring -- and the joy that countless visitors still find spent in their company.
There are places that sing to our souls no matter how often we visit them. Savannah is one of those places for me.
Like so many people, I learned about the rich and mysterious history of Savannah through the book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. But that book alone would not have been enough to intrigue me. I owe my fascination with Savannah to my mother. It was a place she longed to visit. In fact, she had a "scouting" trip planned when the unexpected death of her brother forced its cancellation. She never returned. She wanted to come here because one of her great passions was historic preservation -- and at the time, the late 1980s, Savannah was at the beginning of its glorious revival.
Whether I liked it or not as a little girl who often just wanted to fit in and not stand out, I respected the fact that my mother was always a prescient pioneer -- years if not decades ahead of her time in her artistic and creative vision. She had been a key figure in the historic preservation and revival of Boston's South End, and Savannah was the place that called to her next. She hoped to start her next project here. That alone was enough to make me know Savannah must be a very special place. Whatever else I can say about my mom, she had an almost unerring eye for the cutting edge and potential, for beauty and uniqueness and history.
Although she never came here, I finally did -- at the invitation of another powerful woman dedicated to art, design, architecture, and historic preservation -- the founder and president of SCAD, Savannah College of Art and Design -- Paula Wallace.
I have had the great good fortune of returning to Savannah as a guest of SCAD four times now (and two more at their Atlanta campus). Each time I come, I am struck by the beauty, history, mystery, and presence of this unique and gorgeous city. And I always think of my mother and of President Wallace -- two women with gloriously unapologetic vision. In President Wallace's case, her vision not only brought Savannah back to its former glory, but also continues to inspire countless young people to careers in creativity that push the boundaries of what is possible.
In an age of the disposable, of the what's next and what's new, I am always grateful to find myself in a place where old and new intersect to create a future infused with the best of what has been and immense hope for what is to come. That is Savannah, and that is SCAD. And I am always grateful to come here and enjoy its warm Southern embrace.
Every so often you have one of those days that -- against all odds -- turns out to be pure joy. My Sunday afternoon visit to Leiper's Fork, a small village about 40 minutes south of downtown Nashville, was one of those days.
First of all, the drive there is gorgeous. Particularly if you're a horse lover like me. Rolling hills, beautiful homes, big barns, and white picket fences with green fields dotted with beautiful horses. It was a true old-fashioned Sunday drive.
I arrived in Leiper's Fork about 2:30 PM on a sunny spring day in March. In my mind, I thought I was going to find some artisanal cafes, but what I found was a BBQ joint in front of which was parked just about every motorcycle in Central Tennessee. I was starving, so I asked a couple of guys where to order. When they told me to go inside, I realized that I had Allie, my dog, with me and she probably wouldn't be welcome. So, they offered to hold her for me.
I went in and ordered, and when I came out, my fluffy white dog Allie was happy as a clam with her two new biker friends. So I joined the three of them, and we all had a lovely 45 minute lunch together chatting about Nashville, politics, construction, road trips, and dogs. We had the nicest time.
After I'd had a little sustenance, I headed out to explore the town, which turned out to be filled with cool boutiques and lifestyle stores. I stumbled upon a small store tucked behind another one, and when I went in it was packed with women and kids chatting. So I looked around and found the cutest pink and blue faded plaid shirt for $28!
When I went to check out, all the ladies turned to me and started asking me questions about Allie, who is my joy ambassador. When I told them that we were on the road from New Mexico on a two-year walkabout of intentional homelessness, the owner exclaimed, "Well bless your heart. I think I need to give you a hug." So she did, followed by all the other ladies in the store. It was the most awesome group hug I have ever had.
We all stayed and chatted some more, before I headed out to wander some more. Leiper's Fork was definitely a sweet little town. But far far sweeter were its people. The memory of my new biker friends and those ladies who gave me that huge hug -- on a day I needed it more than I can express -- will keep Leiper's Fork in my Joy Scrapbook forever.
So, if you happen to go to Nashville, make time to go to Leiper's Fork and get to know its people. It is one of the most joy-filled places I have been to in a very very long time!
Last week, at the wonderful dinner following the wedding I had just officiated, a guest asked me whether I advertised my services as an interfaith interspiritual minister. I told him that I had a website, but that I did not advertise. That my referrals came by word of mouth.
This Wednesday, as I met over dinner with a wonderful couple whom I will be marrying in October, I realized, once again, just how much I love these heart connections that come through my ministry, my public speaking, and my writing. So, I had to ask myself, why don't I tell more people about what I do?
I realize that this has always been the case with me. I never have been good at "promoting" the things that feel most deeply connected to my heart and soul. It's always been easy for me to "sell" the things that feel public -- things created for consumption. I have worked in advertising and sales many times in my life, and I was the salesperson you wanted -- the one who came in at double or triple quota every day. If my job was to sell, I sold, and then some!
But when my job was to sell art, I found it so difficult. Art, it always seemed to me, should be given the space to just speak to someone's heart -- and that someone would then simply be guided to know how to hear their heart. Art isn't something that should be purchased so you can "own" an artist or show off a canvas on a wall as a status symbol. Art is a manifestation of a deep connection -- between an artist and what they have chosen to convey, and between the person to whom that resonates, and between the canvas or sculpture or weaving or or or and whatever viewer it beckons. How can you "sell" that? So, this great salesperson was terrible at selling art, because it felt untrue to my heart.
The same has always been true of "selling" myself -- as a writer, an inspirational speaker, and now as an artist and interfaith and interspiritual minister. Because those are the "jobs" that have never felt like work. They have been heart-based passions that allow me to connect heart and soul to the hearts and souls of other individuals. How do you "sell" that? And why would you want to?
Well, that second question is easier to answer than I thought it would be? I want to because I loved that heart and soul connection. And to make people aware of what I love to do allows more connection. But how you sell that, I always believed, isn't up to me. It would just "happen".
I think the difficulty is the word sell -- which means to persuade someone of the merits of something. Advertising has famously been defined as the art of persuasion. Persuasion, however, has that smarmy snake-oil feel to it. At least it does to me.
In the case of art, how can I persuade someone of the merits of something that only their own heart can know? In the case of myself, how can I feel anything other than egotistical and disingenuous trying to persuade you that I will inspire you or that we will have a heart connection through art or ministry or speaking or writing.
So, for today's Soul Sunday practice, I decided to ask myself that question. How would it feel, I asked myself, if I shared more about my ministry?
On the surface, it feels just fine to tell you that, if you are interested in learning more about what I do as an interfaith and interspiritual minister, please visit my website: RED SHOES MINISTRY.
But that's just because I've passively shared something that you have the choice to do or not do.
What feels much harder is to say what I want to say.
And this is what I want to say: I love writing. I love public speaking. I love officiating weddings and helping to create ceremonies and rituals of all kinds. I love connecting with people and helping them through coaching and conversation to reach their highest aspirations by reconnecting with their Truest Selves. Please help me have the opportunity to do more of what I love and share what I love with you and with others!
But there you go. I said it. And you know what? That wasn't as hard as I thought! Because I asked you from my heart. I didn't pretend I was cool or that I just wanted to offer you a service. I spoke my truth. I told you how much I LOVE what I am privileged enough to be able to do -- and then I asked you to help me find a way to have more of this heart and soul connection.
That, it seems to me, is the key. Persuasion is using our minds to connect to other people's minds, pocketbooks, shoulds. Persuasion hopes to convince someone they need something about which they have not yet formed their own heart feelings.
To speak heart to heart and soul to soul is to be honest in a way that we are not taught. And yet, imagine if we all did it! The world would be such a vastly different place.
I've always loved this lyric by Van Morrison: “If my heart could do my thinking, and my head begin to feel, I would look upon the world anew, and know what’s truly real.”
We spend so much time buying and selling, getting and spending things that we hope will make us enjoy life more. But, at the end of the day, as was proved in the findings of a recently-released Harvard study, what we discover about life is that "connection is the whole shooting match".
What makes our lives meaningful, bearable, livable, are our connections with other sentient beings. In every indicator studied by Harvard researchers, those connections were far and away shown to be the most important determinant of quality of life.
So, how can it be anything but holistic, healing, and hopeful for any of us to connect with others from our hearts -- and to ask other hearts to help facilitate more of those connections? The answer is, It can't!
The professor who conducted the study says that happiness in life comes down to two things, and two things only: One is love, and the other is finding a way of coping with life that does not push love away. So, I guess I have answered my own question. How could sharing my desire for more heart-based connection be anything but the most essential kind of love practice for us all?
What kinds of heart-based connections would you like more help finding? How can we all help one another connect from our hearts?
Please share your ideas in the JOY CONNECTIONS forum!
And please reach out to me about inspirational speaking, weddings or memorials, rituals or life coaching, or any other heart-based connection by EMAIL! I would love to hear from you.
Today is Mother's Day -- and I got to spend my morning doing four things my mothers loved. Which is to say, I got to spend Mother's Day morning with my mom in spirit.
I'm in Asbury Park, New Jersey, having officiated a wonderful wedding her last night. Since it poured rain all day yesterday, this morning was my first chance to look around. So I took my mother with me in my heart as I explored a new place (she loved to travel), watched the ocean waves (her favorite moment was right before a wave crashes down upon itself), walked and talked with dogs (my mother, like me, probably loved dogs more than people), and looked at Victorian architecture (my mother was one of the early advocates of historic preservation -- especially in Boston's South End).
Needless to say, this was a wonderful way to spend Mother's Day morning -- having deep conversations with her about my gratitude for all that she gave and taught me.
But although my mom gave me many many gifts, her greatest gift was sharing her spiritual path and practice with me. So, since this is my weekly Soul Sunday entry, this felt even more perfect!
My mom's favorite synonym for God was Soul. Soul, my mother felt, was what was behind all beauty, creativity, artistry, and inventiveness. She loved to see God in all the beauty -- natural or humanly created -- in the world.
As someone who derives my greatest solace from seeing beauty in the world -- for me it is like prayer, like walking meditation -- I am grateful every day for the ways in which my mother taught me to see the Divine in everything. This is the way that the people we love and who love us get to live on through and in us. By carrying what they loved and so taught us to love -- and to love it forward. This is the true journey of Soul.
It doesn't have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch
a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway
into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.
- Mary Oliver
Every Sunday, I post my Soul Practice. Although I am no longer a consistently traditional churchgoer, I still love churches, temples, cathedrals -- spiritual sanctuaries of all kinds. But now I also find my "church" wherever I find myself -- in botanical gardens; in forests; on the beach; in a dog park; in a conversation with a total stranger, on a plane, train or automobile.
I grew up in a church devoid of icons and statues, but as the daughter of an art lover who became an art historian herself, I have found myself in many different places of worship. Whether the statues, paintings or iconography have any specific religious resonance for me matters not one whit, as it all turns out. When I am in a place of worship, the essence of what brings people there in communion is always a felt thing for me: The longing for peace, grace, blessing, and communion. The Oneness with the Divine.
I took this photo of this Madonna in a very quiet purely white church in Brussels. Outside, on a bustling square, homeless people mingled with businesspeople, and a busy fishmonger shucked oysters for his clients to eat standing up and small tables. But inside, there was pure peace. I needed that peace right then. My drive from the train station to downtown had been fraught with "issues" -- and a very impatient and unhelpful cab driver. I was hot and frazzled and, actually, lost. But in that sweet sanctuary, I found the peace I needed. I sat in a pew and watched worshippers kneel and pray and light candles -- and felt their sincere desire for grace. It felt the same as mine.
On my way out, I passed this Blue Madonna. She looked down at me and seemed to offer me a blessing -- a reminder that whatever I could feel inside me in that quiet church I did not have to fear losing in the outside world. That precisely the peace we need to feel whenever we need to feel it is always inside us. It is not where or how or with whom we worship. It is in that still small voice that always speaks to us of the peace and love that are always within each of us. We carry it in our hearts.
My adult life has been a long journey of forgiveness with my mother. I know my mother loved me and did everything she knew to do to provide me with every advantage. And I loved her. It's just that some of her messages landed in ways that have been harder to erase than I might have imagined. But the last year has given me so much release and healing with my mother. These days, all I feel is gratitude and love for her.
There have been so many breakthroughs in our journey together, but one came this winter, when I spent two weeks watching storm after storm pound the Northern California coast in a place my mother loved as much as any in the world -- the Sea Ranch.
My mother always used to tell me that she adored watched waves crest and crash -- and that the moment of translucence just before the waves roll was her favorite moment. I spent 12 days watching for that moment -- and trying to capture it on film. It was like spending 12 perfect days in a conversation with my mother about beauty. It made me realize even more just how grateful I am to her for all of the things we have in common -- our love of nature, animals, beauty, exploration, learning, culture, and Spirit.
So much has been written about the healing power of forgiveness, but at the end of the day it's simple: Forgiveness only loves. To see my mother through the eyes of forgiveness -- for us both -- is exactly like that beautiful cresting moment of the wave: Before it crashes down upon itself and rolls back into the ocean, it is clear, translucent, pure and powerful. Just like Love.
The practice of forgiveness is rightly regarded as one of the most essential spiritual practices there is. When we come from a place of gratitude and forgiveness, we cannot help but feel joy and love.
Man has always dreamed of flying. Socrates said, "Man must rise above the Earth — to the top of the atmosphere and beyond — for only thus will he fully understand the world in which he lives."
Yet the story of Icarus, the youth who created wings that allowed him to fly, is remembered as a morality tale of hubris -- what happens when someone tries to fly too close to the sun.
The first aviators were awed by the experience of flying. Charles Lindbergh wrote, "Sometimes, flying feels too godlike to be attained by man. Sometimes, the world from above seems too beautiful, too wonderful, too distant for human eyes to see …" But now we remember Lindbergh much as we think of Icarus -- for his hubris and not his courage in facing the unknown and doing what no one else had done.
This week, we all read about the United Airlines debacle. But the fact of the matter is that flying these days is often fraught with fear and frustration. So, whenever I fly, I view every experience as holy.
As I rise above solid ground, I begin to pray to feel the awe and beauty and grace and joy of being in the clouds and the infinite blue. I pray to hold everyone on my flight and those on the ground connected to my flight in love -- and to see us all as expressing the same divine qualities.
As a result, I have had some of the most extraordinary spiritual experiences on airplanes instead of churches. Profound conversations, connections, and communion with fellow travelers. The utter awe of feeling one with the Universe in its immense infinite beauty and wonder. The gratitude for all that flight expresses -- joy, freedom, movement.
Sometimes I have had to face down fears -- of unruly passengers, mechanical delays, poor weather, turbulence, unexpected maneuvers, or just the pounding of my own heart and the chatterbox monkey of fear in my mind. But those experiences have provided me with some of the purest and most healing moments of my life. When the illusion of control is removed, we have to do what otherwise we mostly only give lip service to doing. Let go and let God. If the flying buttresses of Gothic cathedrals were built to help conveys the souls of worshippers up to heaven, what better place to feel divinely uplifted than in a plane?
My friends like to tease me because I love planes and flight in such a childlike way. I always have. I even have an app on my phone that lets me look up a plane flying overhead and see where it is coming from and where it is going. I feel such joy imagining that journey. And I try to send that joy to anyone on that flight who might be feeling something other than joy for any reason.
These days, it is easy to dis or even fear flight. But I prefer to think of flying as time with my better angels. Because, as Mark Twain wrote, "The air up there in the clouds is very pure and fine, bracing and delicious. And why shouldn't it be? — it is the same the angels breathe."